Don’t have the means to plan your dream vacation? Fake it!

A Dutch university student recently tricked her Facebook friends by staging a faux gap year in Southeast Asia. Though she frequently updated friends and family on social media, Zilla van den Born had never even left her native Amsterdam.

According to, van den Born kept up the charade for an impressive five weeks by posting manipulated photos of her abroad experience on Facebook. She also posted several videos to a Vimeo account.

In one, van den Born can be seen next to a monk at a Buddhist temple, though the temple was actually located somewhere in Amsterdam.


In others, she posted snaps of exotic foods, found at local Asian restaurants in Amsterdam of course.


And in perhaps her most cunning move, van den Born, a graphic design student, digitally added photos of herself onto exotic backdrops. In one, van den Born snapped an underwater photograph of herself in her apartment complex’s pool and then later added fish in Photoshop.




In order to carry out Skype conversations with friends and family, van den Born even decorated her apartment to look like a Southeast Asian hotel.

The ingenious stunt was all part of a university project, in which van den Born sought to show classmates just how easy it is to manipulate one’s Facebook persona.

Speaking to Dutch Media, van den Born said: “I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media, and that we create an online world which reality can no longer meet.

“My goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality. Everybody knows that pictures of models are manipulated. But we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives.”


Thomas Freeman is Texas-transplant and aspiring journalist trying (but often failing) to navigate New York City. A current NYU student, Thomas also writes articles and manages media content for 20to30.

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